Muhammad al-Mahdi

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Muhammad al-Mahdi
محمد المهدي  (Arabic)

12th Imam of Twelver Shia Islam
Calligraphic representation of his name as it appears in Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina
Born c. (869-07-29)29 July 869 CE
(15 Sha'aban 255 AH)[1]
Samarra, Abbasid Empire
Disappeared Minor Occultation
c. 4 January 874 (aged 4)
Major Occultation
c. 941 (aged 71)
Status Disappeared, believed by Shia Islam to be due to The Occultation
Monuments Maqam e Ghaybat, Iraq
Jamkaran Mosque, Iran,
Al-Sahlah Mosque, Iraq
Other names Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Ali
Ethnicity Arab (Quraysh)
Term 874 CE – present
Predecessor Hasan al-Askari
Religion Islam
Denomination Twelver Shia
Parent(s) Hasan al-Askari

Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Mahdī (Arabic:محمد بن الحسن المهدي) is believed by Twelver Shī‘a Muslims to be the Mahdī, an ultimate savior of humankind and the final Imām of the Twelve Imams who will emerge with Isa (Jesus Christ) in order to fulfill their mission of bringing peace and justice to the world. Twelver Shī‘a believe that al-Mahdī was born in 869 (15 Sha‘bān 255 AH) and assumed Imamate at 5 years of age following the death of his father Hasan al-Askari. In the early years of his Imamate he would only contact his followers through The Four Deputies. After a 72-year period, known as Minor Occultation, a few days before the death of his fourth deputy Abul Hasan Ali ibn Muhammad al-Samarri in 941, he is believed to have sent his followers a letter. In that letter that was transmitted by al-Samarri he declared the beginning of Major Occultation during which Mahdi is not in contact with his followers.

Followers of Sunni Islam and other minority Shias mostly believe that the Mahdi has not yet been born, and therefore his exact identity is only known to Allah. Aside from the Mahdi's precise genealogy, Sunnis accept many of the same hadiths Shias accept about the predictions regarding the Mahdi's emergence, his acts, and his universal Caliphate. Sunnis also have a few more Mahdi hadiths which are not present in Shia collections.

The messianic belief in Mahdi helped Shias to tolerate unbearable situations to the level that without it the Shia religion might not have been able to survive persecutions in the course of history. It also acted as a moderating force among them by postponing political activities until the future coming of the Awaited Mahdi.[5]

Birth and Early Life[edit]

In the biographies of Mahdi written by Shi`is themselves, it is hard to draw a line between hagiographical and historical works. In Shia sources, even in historical works of Ibn Babuya, the birth of Imam was miraculous which must be considered as hagiography.[6] Aside from Shi`i works almost nothing is known about the life of this Imam.[7] According to Yaan Richard some even cast doubt on his actual existence.[7] As the messianic role of al-Mahdi, Abbasids crushing every revolt of Alids which caused al-Askari to hide the child' birth on 255/868 and just close companions get informed of the child's birth.[8]

Most scholars say Al Mahdi was born in 869 AD. His mother was reportedly called 'Narjis'.[4] There are a couple of narrations regarding the origin of his mother. One is that Narjis was a Byzantine slave.[4] Another narration says she was a black slave from Africa. Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi states that names like Sawsan, Narjis or Rayhana were common names for slaves at that time and his mother's name supports this narration.[9] Other narration says that she was a Byzantine Princess who pretended to be a slave so that she might travel from her kingdom to Arabia.[10][11] Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, in Encyclopedia of Iranica, suggests that the last version is "undoubtedly legendary and hagiographic".[9]

Names, Kunyas and Titles[edit]

One of his names is Mahdi, because he guides to secret matters.[12] Al-Qa'im, whose rise against unjust is awaited.[13] Sahib al-Amr (the Master of the Command):[14] he is a rightful leader whose obedience is obligatory for the community by God.[15] As his occultation will be long and believers will be waiting for his rise and reappearance, He is called Montazar (the Awaited).[15] Al-Hujjah (the Proof), the witness before God against those who refused His orders, the one who informs about God's religion and guides to it [16]

His Attributes[edit]

He will be of the prophet's ahl al-Bayt. He will be of the Ali's descendants. He will be a descendant of Fatima. He will be from the ninth generation after Imam Husayn. He will be a descendant of Imam Zayn al-Abidin. He will be a descendant of Imam Hasan al-<skari. He will be the twelfth Imam of the Imams of the ahl al-bayt. His life will be prolonged. His occultation will be prolonged. With his appearance Islam will rule the world. He will fill the earth with justice and righteousness.[17]

Quran and Mahdi[edit]

Ali ibn Ibrahim in his tafseer narrated from Imam Sadiq that verily we did write in the Psalms after the reminder (Torah): My righteous servants shall inherit the earth 21:105. God has mentioned (this) in all of his books. The righteous servants are the Qa'im and his companions.[18] Sajjad about the verse 24:55 said that "I swear to Allah that this verse refers to our Shia. Allah will make them (the successors and He will replace their fear with security) through a man from us, the Ahl al-Bayt. He is the Mahdi of this nation and ...[19] Ibna babeweyn has narrated in his book that when asked from Kazim about this verse: Say, 'Have you considered: if your water was to become sunken [into the earth], then who could bring you flowing water?'67:30, he answered that 'it means what will you do when your imam is missed and you can not see him.'"[20] There are reportedly numerous Qur'anic references discussing the coming Mahdî. Sayyid Hashim al-Bahraani's work "The Qaem in the Qur'an" analyzes several Qur'anic Âyahs (Verses) and their discussion about the hidden Imâm. Some examples of these Qur'anic verses include:

(4:69) And whoever obeys Allâh and the Messenger - those will be with the ones upon whom Allâh has bestowed favor of the Prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth, the martyrs and the righteous. And excellent are those as companions.

"The Prophets" in this verse reportedly refer to the Messenger of Allâh (but the passage talks about more than one Prophet); "The truthful ones" reportedly refer to `Alî ibn Abi Taleb (but the passage talks about more than one); "The martyrs" are reportedly al-Ḥasan and al-Ḥussayn ; "The righteous" are reportedly the Imâms ; and "The Excellent" companion is reportedly the Mahdî (but the passage talks about more than one excellent companion).

(4:159) And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment he (`Isa) will be a witness against them

Tafseer Al Qummi (1:158) cites through the chain of Moḥammad the Bâqir and others that this verse describes that the Mahdî will appear before the Day of Judgement and all Christians and Jews will be among his followers and the Spirit from Allâh, the Prophet `Îsâ (Jesus), will pray behind the Mahdî.

(10:24) The likeness of the life of the present is as the rain which We send down from the skies: by its mingling arises the produce of the earth- which provides food for men and animals: (It grows) till the earth is clad with its golden ornaments and is decked out (in beauty): the people to whom it belongs think they have all powers of disposal over it: There reaches it Our command by night or by day, and We make it like a harvest clean-mown, as if it had not flourished only the day before! thus do We explain the Signs in detail for those who reflect.

The command that comes by night or by day reportedly refers to al-Qâ’im.

(10:20) They say: "Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Rabb?" Say: "The Unseen is only for Allah (to know), then wait ye: I too will wait with you."

The "sign" reportedly refers to the rising of al-Mahdî (in a question asked by non-Muslims?).

(11:8) And if We delay for them the doom until a reckoned time, they will surely say: What withholdeth it? Verily on the day when it cometh unto them, it cannot be averted from them, and that which they derided will surround them.

The book Al Ghaiba by No'Omani, from a chain of narrators to Imâm the Ṣâdiq says the "doom" in this verse refers to the rising of al-Qâ’im and "a reckoned time" in this Verse refers to the companions of Imâm the Mahdî who would reportedly number 313, similar to the number of companions with the Prophet at Badr.

(39:69) And the Earth will shine with the Glory of its Rabb: the Record (of Deeds) will be placed (open); the Prophets and the witnesses will be brought forward and a just decision pronounced between them; and they will not be wronged (in the least).

(61:8) Their intention is to extinguish Allâh's Light (by blowing) with their mouths: But Allâh will complete (the revelation of) His Light, even though the Unbelievers may detest (it).

(70:1-3) A questioner asked about a Penalty to befall- The Unbelievers, the which there is none to ward off, - (A Penalty) from Allâh, Lord of the Ways of Ascent.

Mahdi and Hadith[edit]

Jabir Ibn Abdullah Ansari says: “When Allah, Mighty and Glorified be He, revealed upon His Prophet Muhammad: O ye who believe! Obey Allah and obey the messenger and those possessing authority among you 4:59; I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! We know Allah and His Messenger. But who are the possessors of authority whose obedience Allah has accompanied with your obedience?’ He explained, “They are my caliphs, O Jabir, and the Imams of the Muslims after me. The first of them is Ali Ibn Abi Talib, then Hasan and Husain, then Ali Ibn Husain, then Muhammad Ibn Ali the one who is famous as al-Baqir in the Old Testament. Soon, you will meet him, O Jabir, so when you face him, convey my salutation to him. He will be followed by Sadiq, Ja’far Ibn Muhammad, then Musa Ibn Ja’far, then Ali Ibn Musa, then Muhammad Ibn Ali, then Ali Ibn Muhammad, then al-Hasan Ibn Ali, then the one who will be my namesake and bear my agnomen, the proof of Allah in His earth and His remainder among His servants, the son of Hasan Ibn Ali. He is the one at whose hands Allah, High be His remembrance, will open the east of the earth and its west. He is the one who will be concealed from his Shias and his friends, an occultation in which none will be steadfast on the belief of his Imamate except the one whose heart has been tested by Allah for faith. ” Jabir says that he asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Will the Shias benefit from him during the occultation?’ He replied, “Yes, by the One Who sent me with Prophethood! Surely they will benefit with his light and gain from his mastership in his occultation like the people derive benefit from the sun when the clouds hide it. O Jabir! This is from the hidden secrets of Allah and the treasures of His knowledge, so hide it except from the ones worthy of it. ”[21]

To support Imam Mahdi's claim, Twelver Shi'as along with some other Muslim sects quote the following Hadith:

"I and `Ali are the fathers of this nation; whoever knows us very well also knows Allah, and whoever denies us also denies Allah, the Unique, the Mighty. And from `Ali's descendants are my grandsons al-Ḥasan and al-Ḥusayn, who are the masters of the youths of Paradise, and from al-Husayn's descendants shall be nine: whoever obeys them obeys me, and whoever disobeys them also disobeys me; the ninth among them is their Qa'im and Mahdi."[22]

Different Seasons of His Life[edit]

Hidden Life[edit]

By Quran, there are two kinds of saints of God among people: apparent and hidden, even though he lives among them and is aware of them, but people do not know him. Sura Kahf 65-66 points that even though people did not know the hidden saint but they benefited from him like the sun hidden behind the clouds.[23]

The Occultation[edit]

Main article: The Occultation

َAccording to Sachedina, in every age, there is an Imam whether be apparent or hidden. Because of the dangers which threatening his life, he is concealed by God's order[24] According to a Hadith, the real reason for the Occultation will be known when the Imam reapeares.[25] al-Nu'mani states two reasons for the Occultation: the believers being evaluated by God for their assiduity to their hidden Imam and the hidden Imam not undergoing the Bay'h of the cruel leaders.[25] Twelver Shi'as believe that the Imam did not suffer death, but that, for various reasons, has been concealed by Allah from mankind. This event is known as The Occultation. Until the year 329, the occultation was not divided into two kinds.[26]

Conference poster relating to Mahdaviat

The period of occultation (ghaybat) is divided into two parts:

Minor Occultation[edit]

Ghaybat al-Sughra or Minor Occultation (874 – 941), consists of the first few decades after the Imam's disappearance when communication with him was maintained through his deputies.Tusi and al-Mofid state that the Occultation resumed of the third or seventh day of his birth.[27]

Major Occultation[edit]

Main article: Major Occultation
The name of Imam as it appears in Masjid Nabawi

Ghaybat al-Kubra or Major Occultation began 941 and is believed to continue until a time decided by Allah, when the Mahdi will reappear to bring absolute justice to the world. According to the last letter of al-Mahdi to Ali ibn Muhammad al-Samarri "from the day of your death [the last deputy] the period of my major occultation (al ghaybatul kubra) will begin. Henceforth, no one will see me, unless and until Allah makes me appear. " [28] Another view is that the Hidden Imam is on earth "among the body of the Shia" but "incognito.[citation needed] " Numerous stories exist of the Hidden Imam "manifesting himself to prominent members of the ulama. "[29]

When Jabir asked the prophet about the benefits of the hidden Imam, the prophet replied that the people would benefit from his love (Walayah) as they benefit from the sun when it is covered by the clouds.[30] Al-Sharif al-Murtada states that belief to the existence of Imam causes the people act according to his desires.[31] and to guard against the harms is necessary be reason for the hidden Imam.[32]

Historical Evidences[edit]

Moses was hidden from his community for forty days 7:142 and Juses, by God's will,concealed himself 4:157. If the cause of an event is not realized, there is no reason to deny it.[33] When He can keep Jonah alive in the belly until the Day of Resurrection 37:143-144, He can keep His Proof alive for a long time.[34]

Benefits of the Imam in the Occultation[edit]

Reasons and Consequences of the Occultation[edit]

The occultation of 12th Imam left a considerable gap in leadership of Shias. According to Shia beliefs the Imam was both the spiritual and political head of the community. Although during the lesser occultation the network of Imam deputies (wokala) claimed to have the right to handle Shia communities issues, this system was not continued during the Greater Occultation.[35] After the greater occultation, the role of Imam as the head of community left vacant, which did not theoretically matter at the beginning of Occultation because Shias had no political power at that time. However, when Shia states arose in later centuries, since the hidden Imam was alive and was the leader of Muslims, the role of the Shia states among Shia communities was in question.[35] This problem has caused continuing tension between government and religion throughout Shia history.[35]

The occultation has resulted in many people claiming to be the returned Mahdi. According to seminary expert, Mehdi Ghafari, more than 3,000 fake Mahdis were in prison in Iran in 2012.[36]

«For more than a millennium the idea of the future coming of the Mahdi has provided Shi'i piety with a unique aspiration in the redemption through the appearance of the twelfth Imam.»,[37]

«The belief in the appearance of Hidden Imam as the Mahdi helped Shi'ites to endure under unbearable situations and to hope for a just future pending the return of Mahdi. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that without such a belief in the role of the twelfth Imam the Imamate religion might not have been able to survive persecutions under different dynasties in the course of Islamic history before it becomes established as the official creed of the Safavid empire at the beginning of the sixteenth century...Thus, the ghayba (occultation) of the Imam has acted as a creative force in the lives of the Imamites in order not only to help them bear with patience the difficult times, but also to prepare them to fulfill their historical responsibility of establishing a true Islamic rule even before Imam assumes the leadership of the Imamiyya. »,[5]

«The hope in future coming of the Imam thus became the moderating force among the Imamiya who postponed any political action pending the appearance of the Awaited Mahdi and al-Qaim... (Twelver Messianism:) the quietist movement which aimed at peaceful existence within the Muslim community at large while retaining its peculiarity regarding the Imamate especially the Imamate of the Hidden Hujja.» [38]


Argument by Quran[edit]
Argument by Hadith[edit]
Argument by Reason[edit]

There is no doubt that to prolong a person's life to thousands of years is not logically impossible.[39]



Twelver Shi'as cite various references from the Qur'an and reports, or Hadith, from Imam Mahdi and the Twelve Imams with regard to the reappearance of al-Mahdi who would, in accordance with Allah's command, bring justice and peace to the world by establishing Islam throughout the world.

Mahdi is reported to have said:

Shi'as believe that Imam al-Mahdi will reappear when the world has fallen into chaos and civil war emerges between the human race for no reason. At this time, it is believed, half of the true believers will ride from Yemen carrying white flags to Makkah, while the other half will ride from Karbalaa', in the `Iraq, carrying black flags to Makkah. At this time, Imam al-Mahdi will come wielding `Ali's Sword, Zulfiqar (Arabic: ذو الفقار, ðū l-fiqār), the Double-Bladed Sword. He will also come and reveal the texts in his possession, such as al-Jafr and al-Jamia.

Shi'as believe that `Îsâ (Jesus) will also come (after Imam Mahdi's re-appearance) and follow the Imam Mahdi to destroy tyranny and falsehood and to bring justice and peace to the world.[40] This will also be accompanied by the raj'a (return) of several other personalities for retribution of the previously oppressed against the oppressor.

Condition Before the Occultation[edit]

As al-Askari died in 260/874 in Samarra, he did not leave any apparent son, because the situation was difficult and Mu'tamid was searching for the successor of the Imam; Imam did not reveal his son and Shias were confused about the successor of the Imam. The troubled situation of the Abbasid khalifas make people to think that a descendant of the prophet would rise with a sword (Qa'im bi'lsayf) and wipe out injustice on earth which acted like a consolation for the oppressed people who were waiting for the establishment of God's will on earth.[41]

Preparing the Shia for the Occultation[edit]


Significance of the Twelfth Imam[edit]

There was a well-known statement attributed to the Prophet by the Sunnite transmitters of hadith according to which he predicted that there would be twelve caliphs after him, all from his tribe, the Quraysh. One version of the statement spoke of twelve caliphs during whose reign the Islamic community would be united. In other versions, it was also predicted that anarchy would prevail after the reign of those twelve. It is almost certain that the statement was in circulation in the time of Walid II (125-126 Hijri) when the first signs of the anti-Umayyad revolution had already emerged, and the rebel forces joined by Yazid b. al-Walid and the Qadarites, were threatening the long-established Umayyad orthodoxy. It might even have started to circulate in the final years of the reign of Hisham b. Abd al-Malik (105-125 Hijri), the ninth Umayyad ruler to whom the Muslims universally submitted as they had done to the first three Rashidun, the years were already clouded by troubles concerning the succession. The statement had thus been in circulation long before the beginning of the occultation of the Twelfth Imam in 260 (Hijri). It was already on record as early as the middle of the second century in, for instance, the Amali of the Egyptian scholar Layth b. Sa'd later in the Musnad of Abu Dawud al-Tayalisi and in others. No one can therefore claim that the statement was in any way authored by the Imamites in the post-Occultation period. In fact, there is no evidence in any work written before the last decades of the third century that suggests that this statement had ever attracted the attention of the Shite traditionists or that anyone in the Shite community had ever thought that this might concern them.[42]

A hadith from the Shi'a text (Kitab al-Kafi) containing a conversation between the first Shia Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib and a man named al-Asbagh ibn Nubata, as well as a Hadith in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim in which Muhammad speaks of Twelve Successors.

In a hadith widely regarded as authentic, Muhammad said,

Historicity of Muhammad al-Mahdi[edit]

The historical existence of the twelfth imam has been long debated since the death of eleventh Imam.[45][46] Even though Shi’ite Scholars believe that the Twelfth Imam is an actual person, the Eleventh Imam, Hasan al-Askari, was kept more or less a prisoner by the Abbasids in the camp at Samarra, about 100 kilometres north of Baghdad, and died there in 874 A.D at the age of twenty-eight. It appears that none of the Shi'i notables knew of the existence of the son of eleventh Imam. The only possible occasion the son of eleventh Imam is said to made a public appearance was at the time of his death, then as a child and the boy was seen no more.[47]

It was believed that the twelfth Imam was connected to his community through four agents, giving his commands via letter; Momen doubts the historical accuracy of these accounts, mentioning that there is no indication that the number of agents was limited to four and several others are mentioned. It seems likely that after the death of the eleventh Imam, for the duration of a natural lifespan (i.e. seventy years) this system had continued to operate. The brother of eleventh Imam remained firm in his assertion that his brother had no progeny and there were legal dispute over the ownership of his bother’s estate with the supposed agents.[47]

Henry Corbin in contrast believed that the question of historicity is irrelevant admitting that the idea of the hidden Imam was shaped by the person of twelfth and considering the extensive body of literature about him, saw the birth and his occultation as archetypal and symbolic, describing it as “sacred history”. In his History of Islamic Philosophy He writes: “..The simultaneity of these (birth and occultation) is rich in meanings from the mystical point of view… here above all, our approach should be that of the phenomenologist: we must discover the aims of Shi’ite awareness..”.[48]

Scholarly observations[edit]

Some scholars, including Bernard Lewis[49] also point out, that the idea of an Imam in occultation was not new in 873 but that it was a recurring factor in Shia history. Examples of this include the cases of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah (according to the Kaysanites Shia), Muhammad ibn Abdallah An-Nafs Az-Zakiyya, Musa al-Kadhim (according to the Waqifite Shia), Muhammad ibn Qasim (al-Alawi), Yahya ibn Umar and Muhammad ibn Ali al-Hadi (according to the Muhammadite Shia).

According to Jassem Hossein, traditions regarding occultation of Mahdi had been collected by many different shia sects. Before 874, the traditions existed in Waqifi, Zaydi, Jarudi and Imamite books. In Waqifis, Anmati Ibrahim ibn Salih Koufi a deciple of the fifth Imam wrote a book titled "Occultation". Ali ibn Hossayn Taee Tatari and Hassan ibn Mohammad ibn Sama'ah each wrote a book titled "Book of Occultation" and introduced the seventh Imam as the Imam who will go into Occultation. Among Zaydis AbousSaeed Ibad ibn Yaqub Ravajini Asfari in a book titled Aboosaeed Asfari collects traditions on occultation and the twelve Imams and the end of Imams in twelve without naming them all. From the twelvers, Ali ibn Mahziar Ahwazi who died on or before 874 wrote two books titled, Kitab Al-Malahem and Kitab Alqaem both on occultation and the rise of Imam with sword. Hossein ibn Mahboob Sarad wrote the book titled Al-mashikhah on occultation. Fazl ibn Shazan Nisabouri wrote Al-Qaybah which is narrated from Al-Mashikhah. He died two months before the 11th Imam and declared the twelfth Imam as the Qaem.[50]

Yaan Richard suggests Occultation was a "convenient solution" for the last Imams' justification of their quietism.[7] According to Sachedina, however, the idea of the eschatalogical Qa'im who would rise after going to occultation was mentioned by fifth and sixth Imam, i.e. Muhammad al-Baqir and Ja'far al-Sadiq at various times when the two were approached by their followers and assured of their support if they wanted to rise against the existing regime.[51]

Hasan al-Askari’s estate was divided between his brother Jafar and his mother.

Moojan Momen writes in "An Introduction to Shi’i Islam" (London, 1985, p. 162):

"Jafar remained unshakeable in his assertion that his brother (Hasan al-Askari) had no progeny.". According to Sachadina, "sources describe Ja'far as a worldly and pleasure-loving man who in order to become the Imam had used various repressive means in the presence of al-Mu'tamid and more than once has tried to slander those who upheld the Imamate of the infant son of al-Askari in concealment." [52]

«The period which gave rise to this confusion began with the caliphate of al-Mu'tamid and continued up to the time of al-Muqtadir. During this time, the agents of the dead Imam persisted in upholding the belief that there existed a son of al-Askari in occultation who would rise when God commands him to do so. The upholders of this belief were under attack from all sides and met with severe opposition. The Abbasids were particularly concerned about the messianic successor of al-Askari in concealment. Al-Mutamid for this reason ordered the house of the Imam to be investigated, and all the rooms were locked after being searched. Efforts were made to find out if the Imam had left a son, and midwives were appointed in the harem of the Imam in order to detect any pregnancy. One of the slave girls was suspected to be pregnant and isolated in a room in a special house where she was kept under surveillance. On one occasion al-Askari's wife (Sayqal, mother of the infant Imam) was imprisoned on refusing to reveal the whereabout of her son. ... This situation continued until the caliphate was caught in the political disturbances caused by the Zanj and provincial leaders in Iran, Egypt and Syria. The Abbasid had also supported Ja'far a brother of al-Askari and claimant to the office of the Imamate in order to create a dispute within the Imam's family. Our sources describe Ja'far as a worldly and pleasure-loving man who in order to become the Imam had used various repressive means in the presence of al-Mu'tamid and more than once has tried to slander those who upheld the Imamate of the infant son of al-Askari in concealment.»[52]

According to Jassim M. Hussain, the majority of the Imamites denied his birth or even his existence, and abandoned their belief in the hidden Imam except for a small minority belonging to the circles of narrators, like Ibn Qubba and al-Nu’mani who based their belief on the traditions of the Imams (i.e. Hadith about twelve Imams). Jassim Hussain indicates, several books written before the minor Occultation predicting the event of the twelfth Imam being the Mahdi and his going to occultation.[53]

By the third and fourth decades of the 10th century(i.e. the closing years of the Lesser Occultation), the majority of the Shiis were agreed on the line of the Twelve Imams.[54]

Sunni view[edit]

Historically, "the Sunnites often applied it [Mahdi] to the four caliphs after the Prophet, who were called al-Khulafa' al-Rashidun al-Mahdiyyun, the rightly guided caliphs.5' Sulayman b. Surd called al-Husayn, after his martyrdom, Mahdi b. al-Mahdi".[50] The majority of Sunni Muslims do not consider the son of Hasan al-Askari to be the Mahdi nor to be in occultation. However, they do believe that the Mahdi will come from Muhammad's family.[55] Sunnis believe that the Mahdi has not yet been born, and therefore his true identity is known only to Allah. Aside from the Mahdi's precise genealogy, Sunnis accept many of the same hadiths Shias accept about the predictions regarding the Mahdi's emergence, his acts, and his universal Khilafat. Sunnis also have a few more Mahdi hadiths which are not present in Shia collections, such as the following:

Abu Sa'id al-Khudri narrated that Muhammad said:

Our Mahdi will have a broad forehead and a pointed (prominent) nose. He will fill the earth with justice as it is filled with injustice and tyranny. He will rule for seven years.

Shia books do not explicitly mention the Mahdi having a pointed (prominent) nose.

However, the Shi'a traditions do state (about Imam Mehdi's nose): "His Nose; Abu Sa‘īd al-Khidri narrates from the Messenger of Allah (a.s) that he said, 'The Mahdi is from us the Ahl al-Bait, a man from my Ummah. He has a high nose. He will fill the earth with equity as it will be full of corruption.'"[57]

Other Sunni hadith regarding the Mahdi are virtually identical to their counterparts in Shia books:

Umm Salamah said:

I heard the Messenger of Allah say: "The Mahdi is of my lineage and family".

Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri said:

The Messenger of Allah said: "He is one of us".

—Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri, [59]

In the light of traditions and interpretations, the personality of the Promised Mahdi would be as such:

It is said "predictions and lore concerning the Mahdi abound"[9] Among them are that the promised Mahdi would be a Caliph of God and that to make a covenant with him is obligatory. He would belong to the House of Muhammad and would be in the line of Imam Hassan. His name would be Muhammad and his family name would be Abul Qasim, his father's name would be ‘Abdu’llah [rather than Hassan],[citation needed] and he would appear in Mecca. He would protect the Muslims from destruction and would restore the religion to its original position.

Sunnis also believe that Jesus will return alongside the Mahdi, with the only difference being that they disagree with the Shia regarding exactly who the Mahdi is.

Many Sunnis, Ismaili and Zaidiyyah argue that the 11th Imam, of the Twelver Shia, Hassan al-Askari, did not have a son.[45] Twelver Shias say his birth was concealed. Others argue that even if he had a son, Muhammad ibn al-Hassan could not live for over a thousand years.[48][60][61]

"In 648/1250-1 the Syrian S̲h̲āfiʿī traditionist Muḥammad b. Yūsuf al-Gand̲j̲ī al-Ḳuras̲h̲ī, later (658/1260) murdered in Damascus for co-operation with the Mongol conquerors, composed a K. al-Bayān fī ak̲h̲bār ṣāḥib al-zamān in which he proved the Mahdīship of the Twelfth Imām relying solely on Sunnī traditions. In 650/1252 Kamālal-Dīn Muḥammad b. Ṭalḥa al-ʿAdawī al-Niṣībīnī, a S̲h̲āfiʿī scholar and former vizier of the Arṭuḳid al-Malik al-Saʿīd of Mārdīn, completed in Aleppo his Maṭālib al-suʾūl fī manāḳib āl al-rasūl in which he supported the imāmate of the Twelve Imāms and answered Sunnī objections to the belief that the Twelfth Imām was the Mahdī. The Sibṭ Ibn al-D̲j̲awzī, shortly before his death in 654/1256 in Damascus, wrote his Tad̲h̲kirat k̲h̲awāṣṣ al-umma bi-d̲h̲ikr k̲h̲aṣāʾiṣ al-aʾimma assembling reports from Sunnī sources about the virtues of ʿAlī and his descendants, especially the Twelve Imāms, and at the end affirmed that the Twelfth Imām was the Lord of the Time, the Expected Ḳāʾim and Mahdī. In support, he quoted the following ḥadīt̲h̲, terming it well-known (mas̲h̲hūr), “The Messenger of God said, ‘At the end of time, a man of my descendants will come forth whose name is like my name and whose kunya is like my kunya. He will fill the earth with justice as it was filled with injustice. That is the Mahdī’ ”. Further support for the Mahdīship of the Twelfth Imām came from Ṣūfī circles. Already Abū Bakr al-Bayhaḳī (d. 458/1066) had noted that some Ṣūfī gnostics (d̲j̲amāʿa min ahl al-kas̲h̲f) agreed with the Imāmī doctrine about the identity of the Mahdī and his g̲h̲ayba. The Persian Ṣūfī Ṣadr al-Dīn Ibrāhīm al-Ḥammūyī (late 7th/13th century) supported Imāmī doctrine on the Mahdī in his Farāʾid al-simṭayn. The Egyptian Ṣūfī al-S̲h̲aʿrānī, while generally showing no sympathy for S̲h̲īʿism. affirmed in his al-Yawāḳīt wa ’l-d̲j̲awāhir (written in 958/1551) that the Mahdīwas a son of Imām al-Ḥasan al-ʿAskarī born in the year 255/869 and would remain alive until his meeting with Jesus."[62]

See also[edit]

Notes and References[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g A Brief History of The Fourteen Infallibles. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. 2004. p. 159. 
  2. ^ al-Qurashi, Baqir Shareef (2006). The Life of Imam al-Mahdi. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. p. 40. 
  3. ^ A Brief History of The Fourteen Infallibles. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. 2004. p. 160. 
  4. ^ a b c Sachedina, Abdulaziz (1981). Islamic Messianism. Albany, NY, USA: State University of New York Press. pp. 72–74, 78. ISBN 0873954424. 
  5. ^ a b (Sachedina 1981, pp. 181–183)
  6. ^ (Sachedina 1981, p. 70)
  7. ^ a b c Richard, Yaan (1995). Shi'ite Islam. Oxford UK, Cambridge US: Blackwell. 
  8. ^ Sachedina 1981, p. 40
  9. ^ a b Amir-Moezzi, Mohammad Ali. "ISLAM IN IRAN vii. THE CONCEPT OF MAHDI IN TWELVER SHIʿISM". Encyclopedia iranica. Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  10. ^ The Expected Mahdi
  11. ^ Online Islamic Courses
  12. ^ Sachedina 1981, p. 61
  13. ^ Sachedina 1981, p. 62
  14. ^ Sachedina 1981, p. 64
  15. ^ a b Qazvini 2009, p. 59
  16. ^ Sachedina 1981, p. 66
  17. ^ Sobhani 2001, p. 116
  18. ^ Al-Bahraani 2006, p. 146
  19. ^ Al-Bahraani 2006, p. 158
  20. ^ Al-Bahraani 2006, p. 243
  21. ^ Al-Bahraani 2006, p. 45,46
  22. ^ Ikmal of AlSaduq
  23. ^ Sobhani 2001, p. 116-117
  24. ^ Sachedina 1981, p. 23
  25. ^ a b Sachedina 1981, p. 104
  26. ^ Sachedina 1981, p. 84
  27. ^ Sachedina 1981, p. 82
  28. ^ the last letter of al-Mahdi to Ali ibn Muhammad al-Samarri
  29. ^ Momen, Moojan, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam, Yale University Press, 1985, p. 199
  30. ^ Sachedina 1981, p. 105
  31. ^ Sachedina 1981, p. 134
  32. ^ Sachedina 1981, p. 138
  33. ^ Sobhani 2001, p. 118
  34. ^ Sobhani 2001, p. 119
  35. ^ a b c Momen, Moojan (1985). An Introduction to Shi'i Islam. Yale University Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-300-03531-5. 
  36. ^ Iran’s multiplicity of messiahs: You’re a fake
  37. ^ (Sachedina 1981, p. ix)
  38. ^ (Sachedina 1981, p. 60)
  39. ^ as-Sadr & Mutahhari 1986
  40. ^ Sahih Muslim, bab nuzul 'isa, Vol. 2; Sahih Bukhari, kitab bad' al-khalq wa nuzul 'isa, Vol. 4
  41. ^ Sachedina 1981, pp. 39–40
  42. ^ Crisis and Consilidation, pp. 99-100, Hossein Modarressi, 1993, Darwin Press
  43. ^ Sahih Bukhari 89.329
  44. ^ |Sahih Tirmidhi, V2, P86, V9, P74–75.
  45. ^ a b Akhter, Shamim. Faith & Philosophy of Islam. p. 176. 
  46. ^ Goldziher, Ignaz. Introduction to Islamic theology and law. p. 200. 
  47. ^ a b Momen, Moojan. An Introduction to Shi'i Islam. pp. 161–66. 
  48. ^ a b Henry Corbin. History of Islamic Philosophy. Pages 69-70
  49. ^ The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam, Bernard Lewis, pp. 23, 35, 49.
  50. ^ a b Hussain, Jassim M. Occultation of the Twelfth Imam: A Historical Background. Law Book Co of Australasia, 1985. ISBN 0710301588.
  51. ^ (Sachedina 1981, pp. 15–16)
  52. ^ a b (Sachedina 1981, p. 41)
  53. ^ Hussain, Jassim M. (1986). Occultation of the Twelfth Imam: A Historical Background. Routledge. ISBN 0-7103-0158-8.
  54. ^ An Introduction to Shi'i Islam by Moojan Momen, p. 164, Yale University Press
  55. ^ al-Mahdi
  56. ^ Abu Dawud, Sahih, Vol. 2, p. 208; Fusul al-muhimma, p. 275
  57. ^ Muhammad Baqir Al-Majlisi (2003). Hassan Allahyari, ed. The book of occultation (Kitab al-Ghaibah; Bihar al-Anwar, Volume 51) (1st ed.). Qum: Ansariyan Publication. p. 140 (Tradition XI). ISBN 964-438-478-4. 
  58. ^ Sunan Abu Dawud, 11/373; Sunan Ibn Maajah, 2/1368
  59. ^ Reported by Abi Na’eem in Akhbaar al-Mahdi, see al-Jaami’ al-Sagheer, 5/219, hadith 5796
  60. ^ The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Security edited by Chris Seiple, Dennis R. Hoover, Pauletta Otis Page 60 [2]
  61. ^ Voices of Islam: Voices of tradition By Vincent J. Cornell Page 223
  62. ^ Madelung, Wilferd. “al-Mahdī”. In Encyclopaedia of Islam. vol. 5, Khe-Mahi. 2nd ed. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986. 1231–8. ISBN 90-04-07819-3.




  • as-Sadr; Mutahhari (1986). The Awaited Saviour (5th ed. ed.). Accra: Islamic Seminary Publications. ISBN 0-941724-20-4. 
  • Qazvini, Muhammad Kazim (2009). Imam Mahdi from Veladat ta Zohur. Qom: al-Hadi. ISBN 9789644000126. 
  • Sachedina, Abdulaziz Abdulhussein (1981). Islamic Messianism: The Idea of Mahdī in Twelver Shīʻism. Suny press. ISBN 9780873954426. 
  • Sobhani, Jaʻfar; Shah-Kazemi, Reza (2001). Doctrines of Shiʻi Islam : a compendium of Imami beliefs and practices ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). London: I.B. Tauris [u.a.] ISBN 978-1-86064-780-2. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Shia Islam titles
Preceded by
Hasan al-Askari
12th Imam of Twelver Shia Islam
874 – present
Succeeded by